A Gross Indignity
“And they spit upon Him.”
The night before He had “sweat, as it were, great drops of blood falling to the ground,” that fair visage, which was “fairer than that of any of the sons of men,” had been marred by agony and grief without parallel. During that night He had no rest–He was dragged away from one tribunal to another. First, He was brought before a council of priests. Soon after He stood before Pilate and now, after the mockery of a trial, He is given up to the soldiers, that they may mock Him before His execution. ‘Tis He–the world’s Redeemer, the long expected Messiah–He is led out as a condemned criminal–condemned as a traitor and given up for blasphemy, that He may die the death! Do you see Him? They bring forth an old stool–they call that a throne–the Monarch who sways the scepter of the universe, is placed thereon! They thrust into His hand a reed to mock that golden scepter, the touch of which has so often given mercy to rebels! And now they play the worshipper before Him. But what is their worship? It consists of ribaldry and jeer. Having made sport of His kingship, they turn to ridicule His Character as a Prophet. They blindfold Him and strike Him in the face, some on one cheek, and some on the other, buffeting Him with the palms of their hands! They pluck His facial hair and then they say, making fools of themselves rather than of Him whom they thought to make a fool of, “Prophesy, who is he that struck You?” “Who is this that just now plucked Your beard?” “Who is it that struck You on the cheek?” Not content with this, they loosen the blindfold and He sees. What a sight is before Him! Faces in every conceivable shape mocking Him–thrusting out the tongue or screwing it into the cheek, calling Him all the names that their low-lived dictionary could summon up, not content with heaping common scorn upon Him, but counting Him to be the very offscouring of all things. Names with which they would not degrade a dog, they use to defile Him! Then, to consummate all, they spit into His face. Those eyes, which make Heaven glad, and cause the angels to rejoice, are covered with the spit of these rascal soldiers. Down His cheek it trickles. That awful brow, the nod or shake of which reveals the everlasting decrees of God, is stained with spit from the mouths of wretches whom His own hands had made, whom He could have dashed into eternal destruction had He willed!
When I muse on this, my soul is filled with sorrow. The very idea that Jesus Christ could ever have been spit upon by one in human shape appalls me! Do you remember what sort of face it was that these soldiers spit into? Shall I read you adescription of it? One that loved Him and knew Him well, speaks of Him thus–“My Beloved is white… His Countenance is lovely.” (Solomon’s Song, 5:10, etc.). It was into this dear face, a coarse brutal soldiery must void their vile spit! O Church of Christ, was ever grief like yours, that your Husband should thus be defiled and that, too, for your sake? Was ever love like His that He should suffer these indignities for you? The angels crowd around His Throne to catch a glimpse of that fair Countenance. When He was born, they came to Bethlehem’s manger that they might gaze upon that face while He was yet an Infant! And all through His devious path of sorrow, He was “seen of angels.” They never turned away their eyes from Him, for never had they seen a visage so enchanting! What must they have thought when gathering round their Lord? Surely they would have gladly stretched their wings to have shielded that dear face! What anger must have filled their holy souls, what grief, if grief can be known by beings like themselves, when they saw these wretches, these inhuman creatures, spitting on Perfection! Oh, how they must have grieved when they saw the nasty spit about that mouth which is “most sweet,” trickling down from those eyes which are “like the eyes of doves by rivers of waters,” staining the cheeks which are “as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers,” and falling on those lips which are “like lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh.” This is a subject upon which I must meditate, even though I cannot preach. I cannot describe it to you unless your soul can now draw near to your buffeted Master, unless the Holy Spirit shall give you a near and dear–an intimate, quiet, soul-satisfying view and vision of Him. I cannot give it to you. As well might I attempt to hold a candle to show you the sun as to hope, by anything that I can say, to touch your passions or move your hearts towards my dear Lord and Master, if the vision of Him does not move you to grieve for sin, and to love Him because He suffered thus for you. All I propose tonight is to offer just a few thoughts on this startling fact in the history of our Redemption.
“They spit upon Him.” Let us learn here the deep depravity of the human race. When I see Adam in the midst of comfort putting forth his hand to take that one fruit which his Master had reserved for Himself, I see, indeed, sin and arrogance, daring assumption and a heinous crime! But I do not see so much of levity and lawlessness, there, as I do in this, that creatures should spit on the Creator! As I look through the annals of human guilt, I see strange stories of man in reckless, defiant rebellion against his Divine Sovereign. From that first evil hour until now, what strange monsters of guilt has the earth seen! We have heard of rapine and murder, crimes for which new names have been coined to meet the new atrocities which have been committed! Homicide, fratricide, patricide and matricide in which every sanctity of kin has been outraged. We have read of fornication and of adultery, and of lusts worse than bestial. Good God, what is not man capable of? Take but the bit from his mouth and the bridle from his jaws and to what depth of iniquity will he not descend? There is not a filthy dream that Satan ever had in the dark watches of his midnight reverie which man will not embody in act, and carry out in all its grim and dread reality! Strange are those tales that have come from a far-off land, where the heathen worship in their darkness. They not merely bow down to blocks of wood and stone, but degrade themselves with vices into which we could never have imagined humanity could plunge! O God, my heart is heavy as a stone, and smitten with very grief when I think of what an evil thing man is! Why did You not sweep him from the world? How can You permit a viper so obnoxious to nestle in the bosom of Your Providence? Oh, why do You permit such a den ofthieves to wander abroad such a cage of unclean birds to swing in ether, and to be carried by Your power round the sun? Why do You not blast it, smite its mountains with desolation and fill its valleys with ashes of fire? Why do You not sweep the race of humans clean away and let their very name become a hissing and a scorn? But, my Brothers and Sisters, bad as man is, I think he never was so bad–or rather, his badness never came out to the full so much–as when gathering all his spite, his pride, his lust, his desperate defiance, his abominable wickedness into one mouthful–he spat into the face of the Son of God, Himself! Oh, this is an act that transcends every other! There are other deeds connected with the Crucifixion quite as malignant, but could there be any so vile? Surely we may say of the men that drove the nails into the Savior’s hands that they did but that which they were ordered to do. They were soldiers, and because they were commanded by their military superiors, therefore, they did it. But this was a gratuitous act–this was done without command, without any pressure! It was the base wickedness of their own hearts. Sin saw Perfection in its power, and it must spit on Perfection’s cheeks! The creature, the erring creature, saw its Creator in the mightiness of His condescension, putting Himself into His creature’s power–and the creature spit upon Him to show how much He hated, how much He loathed, despised, abhorred, detested the very thought of Godhead–even when it was Godhead veiled in human flesh and come into the world to redeem!
And now, while you blush with me for human nature, thus foaming out its own reeking depravity, do pray remember that such is your nature, and such is mine. Let us not talk of things in the general, but bring them home in particular.Just such a base wretch am I, and such a base wretch are you, my dear Hearer, by nature, as were those who thus insulted our Lord. I need not go far for proofs, for if we have not spit into the Savior’s face, literally–that dear sorrow-scarred visage–we have, as opportunity offered, been as rude and wanton as they! Do you not remember the poor saint of God who talked to us of the things of the Kingdom–and we laughed him out of countenance? Do we not remember that servant of ours who anxiously longed to serve her God, but we threw every obstacle in her way, and never missed an opportunity of venting some jest or sneer upon her? And O, most precious Book of God, you legacy of my Redeemer, how often in the days of my unregeneracy have I spit on you and thrust you into a corner, that the novel of the day might have my attention? I have bidden you lie still, that I might read the newspaper, or something more trivial, and it may be, less innocent, might occupy my mind. O, you ministers of Christ! How have our hearts despised you! And you, you lovely ones, the lowly in heart who follow Christ in the midst of an evil generation, how often have we said hard things of you, mocked your piety, despised your humility, laughed at your prayers, and made jokes at those very expressions which showed the sincerity of your hearts! In all this what have we done? Have we not really spit into the face of Christ? Come, let us weep together! Let us sorrow as those who mourn over a first-born son, whose corpse lies unburied before them. I have spit into my Savior’s face, but mercy of mercies, He who stands before you tonight, self-convicted, can also add, “But He has not spit in mine. No, He has kissed me with the kisses of His love,” and He has said, “Go your way; your sins, which are many, are all forgiven. I have blotted out your iniquities like a cloud, and like a thick cloud your transgressions.” Melt, then, you eyes, and stream down these cheeks, you briny tears, when I remember that He, whom I once despised, has not despised me! That He whom I abhorred, has not abhorred me! And though we hid, as it were, our faces from Him, He has not hidden His face from us–but here we are, forgiven sinners–though once we assailed Him with indignity as gross as those who spat into His face!
Having propounded that melancholy fact, I pass on. May God the Holy Spirit impress each of these Truths upon our minds while I merely glance at them.
Why was our Master’s face full of spit? Sweet thought! Our faces were full of spots, and if the Master would save us, His face must be full of spots, too! He had none of His own–therefore those spots shall be given Him from the lips of scoffers. You know it became Him who saved us, that in everything He should be made like unto us. We were wounded. What then? “He was wounded for our transgressions.” We were sick, and He, Himself, “bore our sicknesses, and carried our sorrows.” Since we were worms, He must say, “I am a worm, and no man.” And we being sinful, He must bear our sin and be numbered with the transgressors–and led away to die. In all things He must become a true Substitute for those whom He came into the world to redeem!
And now, my Soul, come here and look at this wondrous spectacle again. The face of your Lord Jesus Christ is filled with spit! Was ever a sight so loathsome and so disgusting as this? But mark, this is your case. Down your cheeks something worse than spit ran–from your eyes there flowed something worse than came from the lips of soldiers–and from your mouth there has gushed forth a stream which is worse than that which came upon the Savior’s face. Come, look at this mirror tonight, my dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, for the face of Christ is the mirror of your souls! What He endured mirrors forth what we were by nature. Oh, what spots there were in us! What hellish spots that streams of water could not wash away! What evils of every kind–pride, and anger, and lust, and defiance of God! Spots, did I say? Why, surely the sun has looked upon our faces and we have become black all over as the tents of Kedar. ‘Tis no more with us, now, a matter of spots–by nature we are as the Ethiopian–black, thoroughly black! But, glory be unto His name, His spots have taken away our spots! This spit has made us clean! We are black no longer! By faith we may feel, tonight, that that spit on the Savior’s face has washed away the sin from ours. His shame has taken away our sin! That spitting has taken away our guilt. And now what says your Lord of us? You know what sort of face He has. Listen to Him while He describes ours. You would scarcely think that He could mean it, but certainly He does, for He has seen us often and, therefore, He should know. He says of us, O prince’s daughter–“Your head (Song 7:5, 6) upon you is like Carmel, and the hair of your head like purple: the king is held in the galleries.” And again He says, “You are all fair, My love; there is no spot in you.” When I first had that text laid home to my soul, well do I remember how it ravished my heart! I could notunderstand that my Lord and Master should actually look me in the face and say, “Lo, you are fair; there is no spot in you.” Oh, it is a grand and noble Truth of God! Faith grasps it, love dotes over it, our hearts treasure it! There is no spot left in a Believer–
“Covered is my unrighteousness,
From condemnation I am free.”
One bath in the precious blood takes away all spots, makes us whiter than the driven snow and we stand before God fairest among the fair, accepted in the Beloved! Learn, then, O Church of Christ, this great Truth of God–that the spit and the shame of the Savior’s face have delivered you from the odious corruption that disfigured you, and you may, therefore, rejoice in His meekness who bore your reproach!
What Christ suffered by way of shame, we must remember, is a picture of what we would have suffered forever if Hehad not become our Substitute! Ah, my Soul, when you see your Lord mocked, remember that shame and everlasting contempt must otherwise have been forever and ever your portion. One of the ingredients of Hell will be shame–to belaughed at for our folly, to be called madmen for our sin, to feel that angels despise us, that God scorns us, that the righteous, themselves, abhor us–this will be one of the flames of the Pit that shall burn the spirits of men. To have no honor anywhere, not even among their base companions, is a bitter prospect, but there is no rank in Hell, no being honored in the Pit that yawns for the souls of men. “Shame shall be the promotion of fools, and everlasting contempt shall be their perpetual inheritance.” And think, my Soul! This had been your portion, but your Master bore it for you! And now you shall never be ashamed because your master was ashamed for you! You shall not be confounded, neither shall you be put to shame, for He has taken away your reproach and borne it on His own visage! And as for your rebuke, it has entered into His own heart and He has taken it away forever–it shall never be brought to your remembrance.
Think, dear Friends, of the honor which awaits the Christian, by-and-by–
“It does not yet appear
How great we must be made,
But when we see our Savior here,
We shall be like our Head.”
We shall judge the angels! The fallen spirits shall be dragged up from their infernal dens, and we shall sit as assessors with the Son of God, to say, “Amen” to that solemn sentence which shall perpetuate their fiery doom! We shall reign upon this earth a thousand years with Him, and then, clothed in white robes, our joyous spirits in our risen bodies shall enter triumphant into Heaven’s gates! There we shall be crowned and treated as princes of the blood. There shall angels be our waiting servants and principalities and powers shall assist us in our service of song. Before the mighty Throne of blazing light, where God, Himself, reigns, we shall stand, and sing, and bow, and worship–and we, too, shall have our thrones and our kingdoms, and our crowns, and we shall reign forever and ever and ever! Then we shall look back to that face that was covered with spit and we shall say, “We owe all this to that dear disfigured face! All this glory is the result of His shame, because He hid not His face from shame and spitting.” Therefore we have “washed our robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Therefore stand we in the full blaze of Heaven’s own glory and, therefore, we serve Jehovah day and night in His Temple! Let this sweet thought, then, dwell on your mind. Christ’s shame has taken away your shame! His endurance of the spitting has secured your everlasting honor!
To draw another practical Truth of God from this short but thrilling sentence, “They spit upon HimBlessed Master, .” The less I am like You, the more the world will love me, but if, perhaps, these wayfarers should see something in me that shows I have been with You, they will give me the remnants of that spit which they did not spit into Your face. Oh, my Lord and Master! One prayer I offer, “Give me Grace to bear that spit, thankfully to receive it, and to rejoice because I am counted worthy not only to believe on You, but to suffer for Your sake!” There are many of you, I know, who meet the quiz and hear the laughter of your old companions when you forsake them to follow Christ. In the associations you have formed, and in your family connections, you often encounter a treatment which is not pleasant to flesh and blood. Does not the Evil One sometimes whisper to you, “Follow not with Christ, for this is a sect everywhere spoken against”? “Leave Him and be honored! Go not with Him, when He goes through Vanity Fair. Oh, do not suffer with Him this trial of cruel mocking.” Ah, that is the song of Satan! Stop your ears to it, and listen not for a moment, but listen to this true note from Heaven, “Rejoice you in that day, and leap for joy when they shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for My name’s sake, for so persecuted they the Prophets that were before you.” Take joyfully not only the spoiling of your goods, but the spoiling of your character! Sing, as our sweet hymn puts it–
“Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee.
Naked, poor, despised, forsaken,
You my All from hence shall be.”!
Go forth outside the camp, bearing the reproach. When at any time your heart sinks within you, I would have you consider Him who “endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest you be weary and faint in your mind.” If at any time you would hide your face from the shame and spitting, think you see Him enduring it, and then you will thrust out your face and say, “Let me be a sharer with my Master! Treat me like my Lord! If you spit on Him, spit on me! And rather than spit in His face, spit in mine! I will be glad enough if I can but shelter Him. It is my pride to suffer, my boast to be despised for His sake.”–
“I nail my glory to His Cross,
And pour contempt on all my shame.”
Oh, this is a glory which an archangel can never know–the glory of being trampled on by the world for Jesus' sake! The honor of fellowship in suffering with Christ! And it shall be followed by a greater glory, still, when we shall reign with Him above, because we have suffered with Him below.
To conclude, let me draw one more lesson from the fact that “They spit on Him.” Christian Brothers and Sisters, youthat love your Master, praise Him and extol Him. How the early Church used to talk of its martyrs! After those good men, who were stretched on the rack, had their flesh torn from their bones with red-hot pincers, they were exposed to the gaze of the multitude! Naked and their limbs cut away joint by joint, they were then burned in the fire, but stood calm and dared without a sigh to declare that though they were cut into a thousand pieces, they would never forsake their Lord and Master! How did the Church ring with their praises–every Christian pulpit talked of them, every Believer had an anecdote concerning them! And shall not our conversation ring with the honor of this Martyr, this glorious Witness, this Redeemer who thus suffered shame, and spitting and death on the Cross for us? Honor Him! Honor Him! Honor Him, you blood-bought ones! Be not content to sing–
“Bring forth the royal diadem
And crown Him Lord of all,”
but bring it out! Make it not a matter of song, but of deed! Bring it out, and put it on His head! You daughters of Jerusalem, go forth to meet King Solomon and crown Him! Crown Him with heart and hands! Take the palm branches of your praises and go forth to meet Him! Spread your garments in the way, and cry, “Hosannah! Hosannah! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord,” leading captivity captive, and scattering gifts for men! Talk of Him in your houses. Laud Him in your conversation! Praise Him in your songs! Waft you awhile your melodies on earth, till you shall lay aside this clay, and enter into Heaven, there to give Him the fiery songs of flaming tongues! Then emulate the seraphs, and surround His Throne with everlasting hallelujahs, crying, “Unto Him that loved us, and that washed us from our sins in His blood, unto Him be glory forever and ever!” I think I see Him now! He stands before me! I see that very face that once endured the spitting. Oh, you angels! Bring forth the crown! Bring forth the crown and let it be put upon His head this day! I see the piercings, where thorns penetrated His temple. Bring forth the diadem, I say, and put it on His head! ‘Tis done! A shout rises up to Heaven, louder than the voice of many waters. And what now? Bring forth another, and another, and another crown, and yet another, and another! And now I see Him. There He stands–and “on His head are many crowns.” It is not enough! You redeemed saints, bring forth more! You blood-bought ones, as you stream into Heaven’s gates, each one of you offer Him a new diadem! And you, my Soul, though “less than the least of all saints,” and the very chief of sinners, put your crown upon His head! By faith, I do it now. “Unto Him that loved me, and that washed me from my sins in His blood, unto Him be glory forever and ever.” From pole to pole let the echoes sound! Yes, let the whole earth, and all that dwell therein, say, “Amen!”